Primer and Punishment

Primer and Punishment by Diane Kelly

A House-Flipper Mystery, #5

Published:  Feb. 21, 2023 – St. Martin’s Press

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

My take:

Cousins Whitney and Buck are house-flippers embarking on a project unlike any they’ve done before: a houseboat. All that’s needed are a new motor, generator and cosmetic updates that can be done in a few weeks. That is a good thing since Buck is getting married soon. Easy-peasy, right? So it seems until an incident involving the boat in the adjacent slip throws a wrench into Whitney and Buck’s construction plan.

Without spoiling by going into the specific crime I’ll just say this was an interesting and fun cozy. I enjoyed the different directions the plot took which kept me on my toes. I also appreciated the possible suspects/red herrings added into the mix.

I got to the point where I gave up trying to solve the crime and just enjoyed the ride to the solution. Honestly, that is the way it usually works out for me, ha. I think fans of the series will love the book. It’s the first I’ve had the pleasure to read and I didn’t feel lost.

About the author:

A former tax advisor, Diane Kelly inadvertently worked with white-collar criminals more than once. Not surprisingly, Diane decided self-employment would be a good idea. Her fingers hit the keyboard and thus began her Death and Taxes romantic mystery series. A graduate of her hometown’s Citizen Police Academy, Diane Kelly also writes the hilarious K-9 cop Paw Enforcement series, the Busted female motorcycle cop series, and the House Flipper cozy mystery series. 2021 marked the debut of her new Southern Homebrew moonshine series and her Mountain Lodge Mysteries with The Moonshine Shack Murder and Getaway with Murder.

Be the first to receive book news and access exclusive content by signing up for Diane’s newsletter at Follow the Author Diane Kelly page on Facebook @dianekellybooks for fun, prizes, and more! Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @dianekellybooks. (Source: Amazon)


Donut Disturb

Donut Disturb by Ellie Alexander

A Bakeshop Mystery, #15

Published:  June 28, 2022 – St. Martin’s Press

Digital galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley


The filling is looking grim for pastry chef and amateur sleuth Juliet Capshaw in Donut Disturb, the next in Ellie Alexander’s beloved Bakeshop Series.

Love is in bloom in Ashland, Oregon. The Shakespearean hamlet is bursting with fresh spring energy. Fragrant lilacs and the sweet aroma of vanilla cake fill the air as everyone in town gathers at Lithia Park for the celebration of the year—Thomas and Kerry’s wedding.

It’s a picture perfect day. Guests gather on picnic blankets in front of the bandshell to watch Kerry walk down the aisle and wed Ashland’s favorite detective in training, Thomas. Jules and her team at Torte have been tasked with catering the outdoor reception and everything is going according to plan, until a wedding crasher shows up.

The uninvited guest isn’t just someone looking to score a free glass of champagne. It’s Kerry’s estranged father who is supposed to be behind bars. Kerry is distraught. Jules vows to do everything she can to make sure that there are no other surprises on her friend’s big day. But when the bassist for Heart Strings, the wedding band, is found stabbed with the blunt end of his instrument Jules’s promise takes on new meaning. Now she’ll have to slice through the five tiered cake and a bevy of potential suspects in order to track down a killer before they turn the knife on her. (publisher)

My take: I’m jumping into the Bakeshop Mystery series rather late in the game but I didn’t feel lost at all. Author Ellie Alexander’s descriptions of setting, foods and various citizens of Ashland were just right and I felt up to speed with all.

I’m sure fans of the series will be excited that the wedding of Kerry and Thomas is about to happen. If I lived in Ashland I’d want to be a guest at this celebration. Everything sounded amazing. Well, until one of the people involved in the big day is found dead. And one of the suspects is the bride’s estranged father.

Alexander gives the reader plenty of red herrings and it was interesting to see how the case was solved. A quick read that I enjoyed and would read more of the series. Recommended to fans of cozy mysteries.


Twelve Slays of Christmas

Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

published: October 2017 – Crooked Lane Books

Hoopla audio borrow/my Kindle shelf


When Holly White’s fiancé cancels their Christmas Eve wedding with less than two weeks to go, Holly heads home with a broken heart. Lucky for her, home in historic Mistletoe, Maine is magical during Christmastime—exactly what the doctor prescribed. Except her plan to drown her troubles in peppermints and snickerdoodles is upended when local grouch and president of the Mistletoe Historical Society Margaret Fenwick is bludgeoned and left in the sleigh display at Reindeer Games, Holly’s family tree farm.

When the murder weapon is revealed as one of the wooden stakes used to identify trees on the farm, Sheriff Evan Grey turns to Holly’s father, Bud, and the Reindeer Games staff. And it doesn’t help that Bud and the reindeer keeper were each seen arguing with Margaret just before her death. But Holly knows her father, and is determined to exonerate him.The jingle bells are ringing, the clock is ticking, and if Holly doesn’t watch out, she’ll end up on Santa’s naughty list in Twelve Slays of Christmas, Jacqueline Frost’s jolly series debut. (publisher)

My take:  Twelve Slays of Christmas was an entertaining cozy mystery. The small town Maine setting put me in a Murder She Wrote mood which wasn’t too far off base. I loved the timeline of pre-Christmas weeks and the annual Reindeer Games that provided a few plot direction possibilities. The jilted bride and the new-to-town sheriff had a nice chemistry. The red herrings abounded and I wasn’t sure who the murderer was until the reveal. I almost never do! This was the perfect cozy mystery to read during December. I loved the humor inserted by the author and delivered perfectly by narrator Allyson Ryan. If you’re looking for a fun holiday mystery I recommend you check out Twelve Slays of Christmas.


Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

  • Title:  Bel, Book and Scandal
  • Series: Belfast McGrath Mystery #3
  • Author:  Maggie McConnon
  • Genre:  Cozy Mystery
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  December 2017 – St. Martin’s Paperbacks
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Book, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor—and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy—and whether she may still be alive—is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought. (publisher)

My take:  Belfast McGrath is a chef who left her last gig in disgrace and returned home to work for her parents at Shamrock Manor, cooking for weddings and other events. Being back in the place where she grew up is a challenge rife with memories both good and bad. After a meeting with a prospective client Bel finds a newspaper the client left behind that has a startling photo – Bel’s best friend who was thought to have died now appears to be very much alive. This starts amateur sleuth Bel on a search for her friend.

Maggie McConnon’s mystery was entertaining but not in a laugh out loud way (although I did occasionally). I loved her characters – Bel’s parents and brothers were funny in the same way we may see our own family members as funny, quirky, odd.  In addition to her family were assorted towns-people, old boyfriends, new friends. They all added to my enjoyment and any of them could have been a red herring. I didn’t figure out whodunit until close to the end – and then I wasn’t sure!

Bel, Book and Scandal is the third book in the Belfast McGrath series. I haven’t read the first two but didn’t feel lost because McConnon did a good job of bringing me up to speed in the opening chapters. Recommended to fans of the series and the cozy mystery genre.

About the author:

MAGGIE MCCONNON grew up in New York immersed in Irish culture and tradition. A former Irish stepdancer, she was surrounded by a family of Irish musicians who still play at family gatherings. She credits her Irish grandparents with providing the stories of their homeland and their extended families as the basis for the stories she tells in her Belfast McGrath novels, beginning with Wedding Bel Blues.


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At Witt’s End (Sadie Witt Mystery, #1) by Beth Solheim

Title:  At Witt’s End (Sadie Witt Mystery, #1)

Author:  Beth Solheim

Genre:  Cozy Mystery

About:  (Goodreads synopsis) Things are really bustling at the Witt’s End resort in Northern Minnesota. Clients are vying for one of the few remaining rentals, except Cabin 14 – thing is no one gets out of Cabin 14 alive.

Sadie isn’t your typical sixty-four year old senior citizen. She has things she wants to do and shouldn’t be expected to solve a murder while trying to prevent an unscrupulous sheriff’s deputy from shutting down the lakeside resort she owns with her straight arrow sister. But that’s exactly what Sadie Witt must do.

When five guests with hidden agendas arrive at Cabin 14, they’re stunned to learn that the flamboyant Sadie is their conduit to the hereafter. Clad in the latest fashion trends – fads typically reserved for those without sagging body parts – and sporting hairdos that make bystanders want to look away but can’t, Sadie realizes one of the guests has been murdered and must work against the clock to untangle the web and prevent further mayhem

My thoughts:  I don’t read many cozy mysteries or novels with paranormal themes but At Witt’s End was the June selection for one of my book groups so I gave it a try. It sounded like it could be a light,fun read and it was!

Sadie quickly reminded me of a slightly younger version of Janet Evanovich’s Grandma Mazur (Stephanie Plum series) – except in At Witt’s End Sadie is a principal character, not a minor one used simply for comic relief.

The characters are quirky, the pace is good, and I enjoyed the setting. If you’re a fan of cozies I think you might like the Sadie Witt Mystery Series. I look forward to reading more about the happenings at Witt’s End. The next book in the series is Outwitted.

Source:  I bought it.

Waiting on Wednesday – Jan. 27

Pub. date: March 2, 2010
Publisher: St. Martin’s Minotaur

Cover Image

Publishers Weekly

In this stellar first in a new series, Martin (Murder Melts in Your Mouth and six other Blackbird Sisters mysteries) introduces Roxy Abruzzo, ultra-sexy Pittsburgh sleuth and owner of Bada Bling Architectural Salvage, as well as Roxy’s lovable assistant, Nooch Santonucci, and pit bull, Rooney. A tough girl like Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, if with an edgier vibe, Roxy has an uncle who’s a local Mafia don, but she answers to no one but herself and maybe Sage, her 16-year-old daughter from a teen liaison with chef Patrick Flynn. Roxy gets into trouble after the fatal shooting of wealthy philanderer Julius Hyde and the torching of the country estate of Hyde’s 92-year-old mother, who worries about her missing ancient Greek garden statue. Did her irascible daughter-in-law take it, or another family member? Nope, Roxy did. Roxy’s efforts to salvage the statue lead to a wild cat-and-mouse game with a killer that will leave Martin’s fans clamoring for more.

Waiting on Wednesday – Dec. 2

Maybe because I love apple turnovers or it could be my new fondness for the cozy genre – no matter, this book caught my eye!

Apple Turnover Murder (Hannah Swensen Mysteries)

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Kensington, February 23, 2010

Description: New York Times bestselling author Joanna Fluke never fails to satisfy readers’ appetite for intriguing culinary mysteries—and delicious recipes. In the latest installment of her Hannah Swensen mystery Series, the beloved baker and sleuth may have bitten off more than she can chew.

It’s June in Lake Eden, Minnesota, and for Hannah Swensen that means bridal showers galore, plus a massive fundraising event in need of confections. Hannah almost flips when her business partner, Lisa, suggests setting up an apple turnover stand. But, pushover that she is, she places her faith in Lisa’s mother-in-law’s recipe and agrees to be a magician’s assistant in the fundraiser’s talent show.

Dozens of pastries and one hideous purple dress later, Hannah has to admit that stepping out of her comfort zone has been fun as well as profitable. The only snag is the show’s host, community college professor Bradford Ramsey. Hannah and her youngest sister Michelle each had unfortunate relationships with Ramsey, and when the cad is discovered backstage—dead as a doornail with a turnover in his hand—it’s up to Hannah to uncover a killer who’s flakier than puff pastry, and far more dangerous.

hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Nothing But Trouble by Susan May Warren

Nothing but Trouble (PJ Sugar)

Back of the book:
PJ Sugar knows three things for sure:

* After traveling the country for ten years hoping to shake free from the trail of disaster that’s become her life, she needs a fresh start.
* The last person she wants to see when she heads home for her sister’s wedding is Boone – her former flame and the reason she left town.
* Her best friend’s husband absolutely did not commit the first murder Kellogg, Minnesota has seen in more than a decade.

What PJ doesn’t know is that when she starts digging for evidence, she’ll uncover much more than she bargained for – a deadly conspiracy, a knack for investigation, and maybe that fresh start she’s been longing for.

My thoughts: Nothing But Trouble is the story of PJ Sugar and her return to the “scene of the crime” – her hometown. She left ten years earlier – as soon as she could toss off her graduation cap and gown – after taking the fall for a crime she didn’t commit. So when she gets the call to come home she takes it to be a chance to clear her name. She gets that chance and more.

PJ is a likable character and I hope to learn more about her in future books (this is the first of a series). She’s trying to become a better person and considers herself a work in progress. She became a Christian a few years before coming home. I suppose this is considered Christian lit, which surprised me when I received the book. I had not expected that. There is scripture worked into the story in small ways that seemed entirely appropriate to the plot. I didn’t find it heavy-handed at all.

There’s definitely still some chemistry between PJ and her former love, Boone. He now works for the Kellogg Police Department and it seems he’d like to pick up where things left off ten years ago. But, as tempted as she is, PJ just can’t jump back into a relationship that was the main reason she had to leave town. There’s also something brewing between PJ and Jeremy Kane, the investigator working on a murder case. What will their relationship be in future novels? I’m interested enough to keep reading the series.

I don’t read many mysteries but I think this would be categorized as a cozy. Susan May Warren wrote an entertaining novel – I’m looking forward to the next in the PJ Sugar series.

Thanks to Tyndale Fiction and to Goodreads First Reads for the review copy.

Espresso Shot by Cleo Coyle

Espresso Shot by Cleo Coyle: Book Cover

BN Synopsis: Manager and head barista of the bustling New York coffeehouse The Village Blend, Clare Cosi’s been hired to create a gourmet coffee and dessert bar for a swanky wedding. Clare should be thrilled at this chance to shine, but it’s Matteo Allegro, her ex-husband and current business partner, who’s tying the knot – to Trend magazine editor Breanne Summour, who’s in full-blown bridezilla mode. Claire’s got to put her misgivings aside and focus on business, but since she’s a successful amateur sleuth, murder is Clare’s business too. And when fatal accidents begin befalling people close to Breanne, Clare becomes suspicious. But what she unveils, amid melted chocolate and steaming mochaccinos, may just get her burned…
Well this was a fun book. My first Cleo Coyle and I really enjoyed it. I believe Espresso Shot is the 7th in the series but I didn’t feel lost. The mystery is fast-paced, funny, and filled with interesting characters. Although there were plenty of possibilities, I had no clue who the murderer was – and I liked that. I can say with certainty I’ll be back for another coffeehouse mystery…which will hopefully include even more Mike Quinn!

Thanks to Vickie for recommending this series. You can read her review here – check out her blog – it’s great!

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom: Book Cover
Back of the book: Israel Armstrong is a passionate soul, lured to Ireland by the promise of an exciting new career. Alas, the job that awaits him is not quite what he had in mind. Still, Israel is not one to dwell on disappointment, as he prepares to drive a mobile library around a small, damp Irish town. After all, the scenery is lovely, the people are charming – but where are the books? The rolling library’s 15,000 volumes have mysteriously gone missing, and it’s up to Israel to discover who would steal them . . . and why. And perhaps, after that, he will tackle other bizarre and perplexing mysteries – like, where does one go to find a proper cappuccino and a decent newspaper?
If you’re a fan of light, sometimes silly, mysteries – this is your book. I found myself giggling more than once as various townspeople would wind Israel up. He was always a bit late in his realization of the wind-up. More than one scene brought to mind Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on first?” routine. Perhaps avid mystery readers will figure out The Case of the Missing Books long before the end of the tale – if so, I hope they will find delight in the details. This is the first in the Mobile Library Mystery series. I’m hoping to read more about the characters introduced in this book. Thanks to Vickie for the recommendation!